With Martin Luther King, Jr. national holiday and the gathering that I have been coordinating just a few days away, I ask myself is the effort worthwhile? The answer is a resounding yes!
I was out at the Lydgate Beach cleanup on Saturday morning to help clean the piles of driftwood away from blocking our famous ocean pool. It was beautiful to see and feel the community effort toward a common goal. The physical labor, friendliness and cooperation between people of all ages, sexes, ethnic backgrounds and county government made what Dr. King called the “beloved community” palpable.
He synthesized his understanding of what Jesus taught with the non-violent methods of resisting immoral injustice demonstrated by Mahatma Gandhi. The bedrock of these resistance movements is the concept of agape, a Greek word describing the type of love in which an individual seeks not his own good but the good of his neighbor.
In Hawaiian language there is a word: “kahiau,” which means “to give generously from the heart with no expectation of return.” In the Hawaiian dictionary written by Mary Kawena Pukui and Samuel H. Ebert this definition is listed as rare and the word did not find its way into New Pocket Hawaiian Dictionary condensed from the same authors.
Where the beach cleanup was happening was right next to the heiau which is commonly known as a “city of refuge” or a “pu‘uhonua.” As I understand, “pu‘u” means “a hill or mound” and “honua” is “our foundation” or “mother earth.” When those two simple descriptions of the earth are put together, the word means “a safe place.” Hawaiians had a concept of creating a place of forgiveness in the community, an importance of feeling safe.
On our planet, present statistics show that 150 million people are homeless and 1.6 billion people, or 20%, lack adequate housing. Some 795 million people do not have adequate food worldwide.
On average, 500,000 people per night lack housing in the U.S., while 2.3 million people are incarcerated.
In the U.S., one of five women and one of 71 men will be raped in their lifetimes. One in four girls and one of six boys will suffer sexual abuse.
We are also seeing massive fires and loss of forests that supply our life-giving oxygen, increasing rates of extinction of animals, and seemingly endless plastic waste.
Whatever your beliefs are about these issues, it is clear that many humans do not feel safe.
Personally, I know that not only can these situations improve, but we can eradicate them now if we choose to work together as a species. One thing that Martin Luther King emphasized was knowing that you are “somebody.” Starting with self-love. If I know that I am worthwhile, and can communicate my needs while also respecting and honoring the needs of everybody and everything else, I can change myself and my world.
One of the first books I was given when I moved to Kauai was “Change We Must” by Nana Veary, which is a beautiful example of spiritual strength from a Hawaiian perspective.
Martin Luther King’s writings and sermons offer a blueprint for how we can speak truth to power while keeping our hearts open. We can say NO! to what he called the “3 Evils of Society: Poverty, Racism and Militarism,” while still seeing all of humanity as our brothers and sisters. If we want something to change, we must do something different.
On Monday the Interfaith Roundtable of Kauai is sponsoring a celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King’s 91st birthday at St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church in Lihue.
From 10 a.m. to noon we will show videos of MLK’s talks and other educational pieces on civil-rights history along with musical tributes (including pieces by Nina Simone, James Taylor, Ma Muse, Stevie Wonder and others). And time for discussion.
From noon to 2 p.m. we will have round table of facilitated discussions on a variety of local and global issues with members of the County Council, representatives of environmental, mental health, worker’s rights, women’s rights, mediation and meditation and religious groups represented. Lunch is bring your own or something to share. And the tables will be talking-stick-style with everyone having chance to share their mana‘o equally.
From 2:30 to 5:30 p.m. there will be musical presentations, speakers and a mime. A women’s empowerment choir called the Voice Weavers as well as Sacred Earth Choir will perform along with soloists and ensembles. There will be community singing also.
Councilmember Felicia Cowden will speak on the “Heartlessness of Homelessness.” Brian Alston of the Kauai Fatherhood Council, Barbara Weidner from Surfrider, Pastor Al Rogers, Charles Woolford, a success coach, Jim Edmonds and Larry Graf from Permanently Affordable Living, and Franci Davilla, cofounder of Kauai Mental Health Advocates, will also speak.
The afternoon will begin with blowing the pu at 2:30 p.m. and trumpet prayer by Kaia Shine and opening oli and words of wisdom from Nani Rogers. Hari Kalsa will give an introduction to IROK.
The goal of the day is to educate and inspire ourselves toward creating the beloved community here on Kauai and around the world — a safe, sustainable, loving world for everyone.
Steve Backinoff is a resident of Kapahi.